Move fast and break things. That’s Silicon Valley’s mantra. It’s repeated like a prayer, a litany, by CEOs in boardrooms, shareholder meetings and in the halls of Congress.
Disrupt! Disrupt left, right and center. Smash the status quo. That’ll make things better.
But has this “disruption” made things better? Are we happier because of the products that have spilled out of Silicon Valley like so many demons from Pandora’s Box? YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram all make us more “connected,” or so they tell us. But are we actually happier because of the superficial connections these platforms provide? Does knowing what Timmy from high school ate for lunch actually matter? Does knowing what crazy uncle Larry thinks about the war in Ukraine make Thanksgiving a better experience? Are we more content because Kim Kardashian is in the palm of our hands, hawking Balenciaga on Instagram?
According to a February 2021 survey, nearly half of the respondents stated on average they spent five to six hours on their phones daily. Slaves in high-tech corporate sweatshops half a world away assemble devices that in turn enslave us. These devices and the apps they harbor consume our time and attention. But at what cost?
Most of us pay hundreds of dollars to rent these devices until the next one is out. We shell out even more monthly to keep ourselves connected to a system built to outrage, titillate, and enthrall.
Anger, greed, lust, envy – and most of the other spirits belched from that mythical box (actually it was a jar) are also what keep us online. As we comment, like, lurk, judge and chase that meager high the endless scroll provides us, our children grow up, we grow older and life moves on. And some of us are sleepwalking through it.
As well as genuine human connection, social media has also attempted to replace the search for truth in our lives. It numbs our minds while inflaming our passions. Poetry, creative writing, journalism: these are also the victims of social media. Of the clickbait. Of the algorithm.
While these forms of communication have never been perfect, its practitioners – writers and reporters, editors and publishers – never tried to make their products all consuming. The idea wasn’t to create something the reader never put down. The idea was to inform, entertain, and to provoke thought so when the reader put that paper, that poem or that book down they would have something to think about, and maybe be better for it.
Poetry, fiction and journalism can also disrupt. At their best they disrupt lethargy, apathy and cruelty. Rather than enslave us, they can set us free.
But as it stands we are all victims of Silicon Valley. But instead of fading away like poetry, novels and journalism, we are the foundation upon which social media rests. We are not just the consumers of social media, we are the product. It’s user stats Facebook and Instagram and Twitter take to investors and advertisers when they make their sales pitches.
We are fireflies trapped in a jar, and people like Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk sell our light.
True journalism, practiced in a way that eschews commercial influence and special interests, is a way to unscrew the lid of that jar.
I’m no poet, and I suck at writing fiction. The cringeworthy contents of my journals of my youth are proof of that. Thus, journalism was the only choice for me.
But I won’t pretend to be an expert on journalism, or anything else, in this column. I have, however, devoted a large portion of my life to journalism and the practice of it. Although I was fortunate enough to go to college and study it at the Edward R. Murrow College of Communications at Washington State University, I don’t have a masters degree or a Ph.D. in the subject.
What I do have is years of experience interviewing people and writing stories about farmers, preachers, teachers, cops, politicians, the unhoused, businessmen and women and more. My writings have evoked anger and resentment from some, celebration and rejoicing from others.
Now, I’ve been given an opportunity to write a weekly column by SourceOne News and it’s one I don’t take lightly. I’m an Eastern Washingtonian, born and raised in the Yakima Valley, educated at WSU, and now I call the Wenatchee Valley home. My wife is from Omak and I have family in Moses Lake, Tri-Cities and Spokane.
SourceOne is a news source for us, by us. Eastern Washingtion is home to a unique culture, and unique stories. I am honored and grateful to have this platform to highlight the stories, and the people, I think are important.
Every week in this space I will highlight stories I’ve been reporting on and highlight things that might be overlooked by other media. I am also going to make an effort to highlight stories of kindness in our region.
This column might entertain you. It might enrage you. But the point is to be informative, fair and put the people of Eastern Washington front and center.
Moving fast and breaking things might be the order of the day in some parts, but around here I think it’s better to slow down, listen to your neighbors and tell the stories that should be told.
If you’d like to read more of my reporting, you can most of it on Substack here: https://dominickb.substack.com/